Two schools wilt as new one takes root
The old Dunedin Elementary and ex-Dunedin Highland Middle schools are on their way out. A new elementary school is slated to open in 2006.
By MEGAN SCOTT
Published June 7, 2005
Dunedin Elementary students are getting a new $14-million school about a mile away from their current one.
At a meeting Monday to view a site plan for the new school, residents already had a plan for the old school. They told school officials they wanted to use the old building as a cultural arts center.
"We're worried about what could become of the property," said Kim Holtorf, who lives near the school. "It has an historic value. There are so many people in our community who attended that school."
The school on Beltrees Street dates back to the 1920s, when it opened as a junior high school and housed grades 7-9.
The new school is scheduled to open in 2006 at the site of the former Dunedin Highland Middle School. Bayside High School used it as a temporary location until October 2004.
School officials plan to demolish that building next month to make way for the 85,000-square-foot elementary school.
Tony Rivas, director of facilities for Pinellas County schools, said the current building on Beltrees Street is functionally obsolete.
The school consists of 12 buildings. The oldest part of the original school structure was built in 1926. The other buildings were constructed in the 1950s and 1980s. The facility is about 73,000 square feet and holds 669 students.
"It wasn't about the quantity of the students," said Rivas. "It was time (for a new school). As we move throughout the district and look at the needs of the buildings, Dunedin Elementary came up in the ranking."
Officials wanted to construct the new school on the same site as the old one, then move the students to the new building and demolish the old one.
But the Department of Education said the administration, media center and kindergarten buildings, which were constructed between 1985 and 1989, were too new to be torn down.
Rivas said trying to construct new buildings on the site without touching those buildings would have been difficult. And there is not enough room on the site to build the new school next to it.
"This allows us to keep the school in operation without affecting students," he said.
The school was designed by Fleishman Garcia, a Tampa architectural firm that also did Shore Acres Elementary School in St. Petersburg, which opened last year.
The cafeteria/multipurpose room, classrooms, kindergarten and administration buildings will be constructed around a courtyard.
An existing building will serve as the art center.
The school will be configured in a way to accommodate the construction of another 10,000-square-foot building, if necessary, said Miller.
Dunedin and Clearwater partnered with Pinellas County schools to use two soccer and two softball fields that will also be part of the school site.
As for the old building, the School Board plans to hold on to it, said Miller.
The city had considered purchasing the property years ago, but those plans never got off the ground.
The school is currently located adjacent to Knology Park, near the library and senior center.
Vinnie Luisi, director of the Dunedin Historical Society and Museum, said he could see the old facility as a visitors center for the Blue Jays, or community theater in the original building.
"We have no community theater here," said Luisi, who is also on the cultural arts advisory committee. "The atmosphere in the building is an old-type theater. It's 1920 style, but it's gorgeous."
No decision has been made on what will go into the old school, said Miller.
But he reiterated the school district plans to hold on to it, even though officials receive constant calls from developers inquiring about purchasing vacant property.
Holtorf, though, worries that someone may want to come in and demolish the buildings.
Patricia Pellegrino, another resident, has the same concern.
"I would like to see a combination of cultural and recreational there," she said. "The kids in the neighborhood don't have a place to go. Anything that's going to help kids not get into trouble."
Assistant City Manager Maureen Freaney said Commissioner Dave Eggers and City Manager John Lawrence met with Pinellas school superintendent Clayton Wilcox earlier Monday to discuss their concerns. He promised to keep Dunedin informed about plans for the site, she said.
"Everybody is concerned about that site," Freaney said. "I think that personal commitment from him at least gives us some security."
[Last modified June 7, 2005, 02:15:48]
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